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Agriculture remains a key player in all 36 Oregon counties
6/6/2013
New statistics show record high sales in 2012 with 25 counties showing an increase

Marion County remains the runaway leader, three eastern Oregon counties are next on the list, and 25 of Oregon's 36 counties have reported an increase in agricultural sales in 2012 according to statistics compiled by Oregon State University. Many counties reported dramatic growth last year buoyed by high prices and good yields. The latest figures continue to emphasize the importance of agriculture to both the local and state economy.

Oregon's total agricultural sales for 2012 is up nearly 3.4 percent at more than $5.48 billion– another record high for the state. Eleven counties recorded double digit increases this past year.

Once again, the diversity of agriculture in Oregon resulted in winners and losers among various commodities. While the top ten list contains the same names as before, the mixed bag of results has changed the rank order of counties when it comes to 2012 gross farm and ranch sales:

  1. Marion           $639 million
  2. Umatilla        $487 million
  3. Morrow         $482 million
  4. Malheur        $373 million
  5. Clackamas    $343 million
  6. Linn               $301 million
  7. Washington  $292 million
  8. Klamath        $290 million
  9. Yamhill         $269 million
  10. Polk              $162 million

For the first time in recent memory, three of the top four counties are east of the Cascades. Umatilla and Morrow counties held steady at #2 and #3 respectively. But Malheur County jumped up a spot to #4, dropping Clackamas County to #5. In the second five, Linn County moved up a couple of spots to #6 with Washington dropping to #7 and Klamath to #8. Yamhill and Polk counties remain at #9 and #10.

Nine of the top ten counties saw increases in agricultural sales. Malheur (+31.3 percent) reported an increase of $77 million in 20012. Linn (+7.8 percent) showed noticeable growth. Marion, Morrow, Clackamas, Washington, Klamath, Yamhill, and Polk counties had smaller increases.

Of those in the top ten, only Umatilla County (-3.7 percent) showed a decrease in gross farm and ranch sales last year. It’s hard to pinpoint the reasons for the decline, but a drop in vegetable and truck crops in Umatilla County was a factor.

With that exception, Eastern Oregon counties did well in 2012.

“They’ve not just come back strong, they’ve expanded,” says Jim Johnson, land use specialist with the Oregon Department of Agriculture. “When you look at the growth the past few years of high value crop production in irrigated agriculture in Morrow, Umatilla, and Malheur counties, to me, that is economic development in its truest sense.”

Despite the gains in Eastern Oregon, Willamette Valley counties all saw increases in sales last year.

“Marion County continues to be the powerhouse,” says Johnson. “As strong as some of the counties east of the Cascades are doing, Marion is by far number one and it isn’t even close. The Willamette Valley is Oregon’s agricultural industrial park with Marion County at the heart. Marion, Clackamas, and Washington counties, in particular, are not only productive, they are urban.”

Counties in the valley remain the most agriculturally diverse. Those growing grass seed saw a strong increase in 2012 sales, which largely explains the steep rise in Linn County. After some tough times, Oregon’s greenhouse and nursery sector rebounded a bit, which helped all metro-area counties.

Another region of the state showing healthy gains is the Oregon Coast.

“The coastal counties, for the first time that I can remember, each saw a jump in agricultural sales last year,” says Johnson. “Most of that was related to a good year for dairy and other livestock production. But it was also another relatively good year for cranberry production on the south coast.”

Among the coastal counties, Clatsop, Tillamook, Lincoln, Coos, and Curry all showed significant gains in farm and ranch sales.

Another county that specifically had a great year was Hood River, at $112 million in farm and ranch sales– a 41.7 percent increase over 2011. That figure boosts Hood River County from #19 in the state to #13. A solid season for tree fruit is responsible for most of the increase.

Jefferson, Columbia, and Josephine counties remained the same in sales last year with Wasco, Douglas, Jackson, Sherman, Grant, Crook, and Gilliam counties showing slight decreases to go along with Umatilla. No Oregon county dropped more than four percent in sales value in 2012– another sign that the state’s agricultural economy was generally strong. In fact, for the first time, 16 counties reported sales exceeding $100 million in a single year with another county falling just short of triple digits.

Nearly half of Oregon's agricultural production still takes place in the Willamette Valley. However, the impact of agriculture remains even greater in rural Oregon as farming and ranching represent a larger percentage of the local economy. With Umatilla, Morrow, and Malheur counties now in the top four, Eastern Oregon is making somewhat of a comeback when it comes to its contribution to the state’s agriculture.

To view the OSU database containing county agricultural sales, go to the Oregon Agricultural Information Network home page and select "OAIN Database System."

For more information, contact Bruce Pokarney at (503) 986-4559.


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